Posh UK properties not fully declared and alleged misappropriation of N32.5 billion funds belonging to Bayelsa State got its former governor, Seriake Dickson into trouble with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), SaharaReporters learnt on Wednesday.
The former governor, who currently represents Bayelsa West as a senator in the National Assembly, was grilled for hours by the EFCC over corruption allegations on Tuesday.
SaharaReporters learnt that Dickson presented himself to the EFCC following an invitation by the agency over allegations bordering on abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds during his eight-year reign as governor of Bayelsa State.
Dickson was the governor of the state between 2012 and 2020.
He was a member of the House of Representatives for Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State from 2007 to 2011 and was also the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Bayelsa State from 2006 to 2007.
However, details from the petition submitted to the EFCC by an NGO, asking the anti-graft agency to investigate the assets declared by Dickson were obtained by SaharaReporters on Wednesday.
For instance, Dickson is suspected to have six posh properties, estimated at £4,179,000 not fully disclosed to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) in his asset declaration forms.
He is also suspected to have interests in two foreign companies, similarly under questionable circumstances.
“In 2015, Dickson was accused by the All Progressives Congress (APC) of embezzling over N15 billion received from donors after the 2012 flood that devastated the State.
“The APC has also alleged that Governor Dickson diverted N17.5 billion from the Bayelsa State Government to fund his 2019 re-election campaign for governor. The allegations are denied by Dickson,” the petition read in part.
The NGO, in its requests, asked the EFCC to review “the Asset Declaration forms submitted by Dickson during his periods in office as Attorney General of Bayelsa State, Governor of the State and as a member of the House of Representatives:
“To verify that Dickson’s income and declared assets were sufficient to buy the freehold for 43, Well Street, London, E9 7QX (Freehold) and 171 Shirland Road, London, W9 2EU and the leasehold for Flats A-D, 43, Well Street, London, E9 7QX: and, if not, to investigate whether the property was acquired through the proceeds of corruption.
“To verify that Dickson declared his ownership of the above properties and correctly recorded their stated purchase prices: and if not to commence forfeiture action.
“To verify that Dickson recorded his interests in The Seriake Dickson Investments Limited (incorporated in the Seychelles) and The Seriake Dickson (incorporated in the UK): and, if not, to take appropriate action.
“To verify that whether Dickson managed or operated bank accounts associated with The Seriake Dickson Investments Limited (incorporated in the Seychelles) and The Seriake Dickson (incorporated in the UK): and, if not, to take action.”
Foreign Assets, Others
The petition also read that Dickson’s company, ‘The Seriake Dickson Investments Limited’ is registered in the Seychelles and that any shareholding should therefore have been declared.
“Given that there is a charge on 171 Shirland Road in favour of a UK bank (Tab 12), The Seriake Dickson Investments Limited must have operated a bank account to receive the loan. It is highly likely that this account was in the Seychelles where the company was registered or in the UK where the bank loan was made.
“The UK company registry records a company called ‘The Seriake Dickson’ being incorporated on 22 February 2010 and dissolved on 4 October 2011. It was registered as a not-for-profit company (“company limited by guarantee”) with an address at of 4 Levens Hall Drive, Westcroft, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire MK4 4FL. No accounts were ever filed. It is likely that the company would have had an associated UK bank account,” it further read.
It listed his UK properties to include 43, Well Street, London, E9 7QX (Freehold);
Flats A-D, 43, Well Street, London, E9 7QX (Leasehold) and 171 Shirland Road, London, W9 2EU.
For example, 43, Well Street, London, E9 7QX (Freehold), which had a purchase price stated as £800,000, was “valued at £2,000,000 as at March 2020”.
“43, Well Street, London, E9 7QX (Freehold). The deeds record that the property was purchased on 14 May 2012 (thus during Dickson’s tenure as a Governor) by The Seriake Dickson Investments Limited, a company incorporated in the Seychelles,” it added.
It continued, “The title deeds give Daniel Ford & Co of 35 Balfe Street, London N1 9EB as the agent for The Seriake Dickson Investments Limited. Daniel Ford & Co is a London-based estate agent which reportedly arranged the purchase of a three London properties for former oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke that have now been seized as proceeds of corruption.
“In December 2017, the company’s co-owner, Adeyemi Edun, was reportedly arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on suspicion of money laundering. Mr. Edun denied any wrongdoing.
“Flats A-D, 43, Well Street, London, E9 7QX (Leasehold). The OCOD records that the leasehold rights to Flats A-D, 43, Well Street, London, E9 7QX are held by The Seriake Dickson Trust.
“The title deeds for Flat A (Title No: AGL256116), Flat B (title no: AGL256114), Flat C (title no: AGL256117) and Flat D (title no: AGL256112), downloaded from the UK government’s land registry portal (https://eservices. landregistry.gov.uk/) between 24 February 2020 and 23 March 2020, all record that leaseholds being purchased by ‘The Seriake Dickson Trust (incorporated in Nigeria) of 35 Balfe Street, London N1 9EB’. The stated London contact address for the Trust is that of Daniel Ford &Co (Tabs 6-9).
“A search of the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission registry on 31 October 2017 confirms that The Seriake Dickson Trust (company no: 38600) is registered at Zone A 13, Apo Legislative Quarter Abuja.
“The trustees of the Trust are named as Henry Seriake Dickson and his siblings; Mrs. Grace Opekere Seriake Dickson of 4, Odienna Close Wuse 2, Abuja: Timi Dickson, Dickson Akpolagha, Oruaze Moses Dickson of 2, Daniel Obele Street, Ekeki Yenagua, Bayelsa State: and Amalate Tunner Johnny, an ally of Dickson and King in Bayelsa of 7A, Angola Street zone 1, Abuja.
“The trust was established on 18 May 2010, thus when Dickson was a member of House of Representatives.
“171 Shirland Road, London, W9 2EU. The OCOD records that the freehold rights to 171 Shirland Road, London, W9 2EU are held by The Seriake Dickson Investments Limited.
“The deeds record that the property was purchased on 2 February 2011 (thus during Dickson’s tenure as a member of the House of Representatives) by The Seriake Dickson Investments Limited. The purchase price was stated as £1,370,000.
“The title deeds also record that a charge against the property in favour of FBN Bank (UK).
“The value of the property as at March 2020 was £2,179,000.”
Dickson also allegedly makes income from rent with one bedroom flat fetching an estimated £1,357 per month in the area where one of the said properties is located.
“A similar search for 171 Shirland Road, London, W9 2EU also reveals that the occupants would appear unrelated to Dickson, thus also suggesting that the property was rented.
“The current rental value of a one-bedroom flat in the area is £1,581 per calendar month.
“It is likely that the collection of any rents would have required a UK bank account,” the petition also noted.
But in a statement on Tuesday, Dickson said he declared his assets several times to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) before he became a governor.
“I understand that there is a petition from an NGO alleging that these investments (largely buildings, plots, farms, etc in my village, Orua, Yenagoa, and two buy-to-let houses in the UK) were not declared. I have a duty to clarify these issues with the investigating authorities who by law have the responsibility to inquire into these matters.
“However, for the avoidance of doubts, let me state that my family investments, Seriake Dickson Trust Incorporated were made between 1996 and 2012 before I became Governor,” he said.